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How can technology prepare your children today for 21st-century skills?

The future life that will be seen by our children is looking to be very, very different from our present. Global think tanks, organizations, and governments have all accepted that this new future, a result of extremely rapid growth in automation driven by artificial intelligence, is fast approaching us.

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-By Priyadeep Sinha, Founder, and CEO of Kidovators

Rule-based and process-based works are being increasingly done by automated systems at a much faster rate at the fraction of the cost incurred on humans doing these tasks. However, work that is non-process based, and requires creative, leadership or decision-making skills are hard for automated systems to execute and will need human capital to do the same. It is important that our children, who are our future human capital, are very adept at these skills from an early age.

Children entering school today will start working in 2035 and probably work till 2073. When you put it in numbers like this, you realize how important it is to give them the right education today. Of course, there is a great need to ensure that our children are proficient in the 3R’s of reading, writing, and arithmetic which are being imparted by schools in a structured manner. Along with the 3R’s, there is an increasing need to help children learn and hone 21st century skills such as the 4C’s of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration along with other soft skills such as problem-solving, leadership and empathy. These are extremely crucial for them to thrive as future human capital. However, most schools have limited expertise and resources for these skills and it is important that schools, parents and the community at large are able to understand this to act on it.

Having said that, it is not a very hard task to start preparing our children for these 21st century skills right away. With 21st century skills being a massive buzzword, the real understanding of the term is lost many times and it is important that parents and educators both truly understand the meaning of the term to do justice to helping children learning these skills. Basically, skills that can help one prepare better for an unpredictable future in this information age are called 21st century skills. The most important prerequisites to learning these skills are that the learner is at the center of the learning process as well as the process of learning is driven by curiosity rather than fear. Also, for 21st century skills, a richer learning process is far more critical than correct learning outcomes.

Throughout the formative years, project works are a great way to get children to think of many new and thought provoking ways of doing things. Especially projects on real world problem allow children to understand the issue from its roots giving them deeper perspective of things. Projects also allow for open-ended thinking that is a key practice to becoming a good 21st century learner. Also, discussions and debates are a good medium to learn 21st century skills. When children discuss and debate on real-world problems, it helps shape up not only their thinking process but also the ability to communicate their thoughts in the right manner as well as build empathy.

Collaborative and peer to peer learning are the most under-utilized forms of 21st century learning. When children learn with or do intellectual work with their friends and peer, they are learning to solve problems, present their ideas, open to listening to others’ ideas and work together with other children by giving space and respecting their thoughts too. Also, it has been seen that children are much more comfortable trying different things and making mistakes in their learning process when around a peer as compared to being around an adult including their parents and teachers.

21st century skills can be easily engrained in the academic learning environments in schools as well as at home. The first step to enabling this is by not focusing on children getting to the right answer as quickly as possible but find different ways of getting to the right answer. Mathematics and sciences allow a lot of scope for this. In the classroom, teachers and at home, parents must encourage children to think out of the box when solving problems. It improves both creative and critical thinking among children and is the right way to learn that helps build a great 21st century skills foundation. Another easy step for encouraging this is by discussing alternate cases or ideas. When studying social sciences and languages, an alternate thought could be a great way to get students really thinking and critically analyzing a situation. For example, what would have happened if Maharana Pratap won the battle of Haldighati is not what actually happened but a question like this to the children would get them thinking on the actual events and understanding what really happened at a detailed level. Here again, the intent of learning is driven by curiosity and learning actually takes place.

Today, with lack of convenient playing spaces as well as intent among our children, they are playing way lesser than our generation. Play is extremely critical for building good 21st century learners. It brings discipline, collaboration and leadership skills among our children along with making them physically and mentally fitter.
While there is a general resistance to long screen time for children which is justified given the deflection in life skills it creates. However, some screen time in moderation including doing research work around a project or finding the answer to a curious question, watching videos on specific ‘why’ and ‘how’ topics as well as playing collaborative games is not a bad practice to help to build holistic thinking skills among children. Board games also allow for great 21st century learning.

In fact, as I mentioned earlier in this article too, it is not very hard to get our children started on acquiring and mastering 21st century skills using very simple means at home and in the classroom. The onus is on parents and teachers to nudge children in this direction. With the changing world environments when it comes to human capital requirements, it is not optional any more to help our children acquire valuable 21st century skills. It is a brave new world that we are entering today and a definitive action on bringing 21st century skills to our children would go a long way in ensuring that they will not only survive but thrive in that future.

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]


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